Tag Archives: mental-health

Research Reveals How A Single Choice Affects Mental Health More Than Medications

Regular readers know that I have stressed the importance of exercise for the brain. So, it seems a logical corollary that food also affects the brain as well as the body.

nutrition

Tony

Our Better Health

“We need to get serious
about the critical role played by nutrition.”

– Julia Rucklidge, Clinical Psychologist

We pretty much all agree that good nutritional habits are vital to good physical health, yes? But what about mental health? Do good nutritional habits translate to a healthier mental state? On the surface, it would make sense. After all, the food that we eat contains nutrients – and these nutrients are transported throughout our entire body via our bloodstream. We already know that the brain requires nutrients to operate effectively…so, yeah, it makes sense.

But is eating right more important to mental health than prescription medicine?

Ah, this is a bit trickier. After all, pharmaceuticals are research-intensive and science-based products that have undergone extensive trial and error, often over a period of multiple years. These same products have earned the coveted “seal of approval” from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)…no easy…

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What Self-Care Is — and What It Isn’t

More good step by step info on living a healthy and happy life.

Healthy-Lifestyle

To read more on the value of exercise, check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits)

For more on how good sleep is for the body, check out – How important is a good night’s sleep?

Tony

Our Better Health

When asked the question: “Do you take care of yourself?” most of us will answer yes — we’d even think, “What kind of question is this? Of course I care about myself.”

When asked, “In what ways do you take care of yourself?” — well, that’s where the tricky part begins.

What is self-care?

Self-care is any activity that we deliberately do in order to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health. Although it’s a simple idea in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also keep to a good relationship with oneself and others.

What isn’t self-care?

Knowing what self-care is not might be even more important. It is not something that we force ourselves to do, or something we don’t enjoy doing. As Agnes Wainman defined, self-care is “something that refuels us, rather than takes…

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What is the Value of Hugging?

What is the value of hugging? Oh yes, it feels nice and likely makes the other person feel nice, too, but are there real tangible benefits to hugging? Or, is that all there is.

hug

Turns out that there are real measurable benefits from hugging. Scientists have isolated a hormone, a healthy neuropeptide – oxytocin – that is released into the blood stream when you hold a friend close. As a result your blood pressure goes down as well as stress and anxiety.

The skin is the largest organ of the body and as such is loaded with nerve sensors of light touch, heavy touch, p ressure, heat, cold, pain, etc. Just the act of being touched increases production of a specific hormone within the brain, Nerve Growth Factor (NGF) which activates greater nervous system and nerve net development. That is just from touch. Hugging is the next level up.

Research from the University of Vienna points out that you need to be selective about who you are hugging. A polite squeeze to someone socially that you aren’t close to can have the opposite effect.

Partners in functional relationships have been found to have increased oxytocin levels. The hormone promotes bonding, social behavior and closeness between family members and couples.

Dr. Kathleen C. Light, a professor at the University of North Carolina Department of Psychiatry, studies oxytocin in married couples and those permanently living together. She has found an increase in the hormone over time in close couples.

The National Institute of Health’s News in Health publication reported that “Oxytocin makes us feel good when we’re close to family and other loved ones, including pets. It does this by acting through what scientists call the dopamine reward system. Dopamine is a brain chemical that plays a crucial part in how we perceive pleasure….

“Oxytocin does more than make us feel good. It lowers the levels of stress hormones in the body, reducing blood pressure, improving mood, increasing tolerance for pain and perhaps even speeding how fast wounds heal. It also seems to play an important role in our relationships. It’s been linked, for example, to how much we trust others.”

hugs

Barbara Frederickson points out in her book Positivity “Although any single hug, or moment of positivity, is unlikely to change your life, the slow and steady accumulation of hugs – or positivity – makes a huge difference. So, find a way to increase your daily dose of genuine, heart-to-heart, hang-on-tight hugs. You will not only give and receive good feelings, but over time, you’ll give and receive good health.”

Couldn’t have said it better myself.

Tony

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8 Everyday Activities That Increase Your Mental Health

I love the simplicity of this. Truly the best things in life are free.

When I bought my apartment, one of the major selling points was the fact that it overlooks Lake Michigan. My east view gives me sunrises every morning. Truly food for the soul.

brain

To read further on positivity, check out PHow to harness positive psychology for you – Harvard.

For more on number three – stress, check out Super tools for handling stress.

Tony

 

Our Better Health

Which of these uncomplicated activities to you do most days?

Do these most days and it will help protect your mental health.

1. Dwell on the positive

Positive memories could be used as a way to help boost mental well-being, new research finds.

People in the study were asked to focus on positive social memories.

Participants focused on their own positive feelings from that memory as well as on the positive feelings of the other person.

The results showed that people felt socially safer and more positive and relaxed after the exercise.

At the same time feelings of guilt and fear were reduced.

2. Drink some tea

Tea is both calming and can make you feel more alert.

It improves cognitive performance in the short-term and may help fight Alzheimer’s in the long-term.

Finally, it is linked to better mental health.

I’ll raise a cup to that!

From: Tea: 6…

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Celebrate The Spirit of Easter, or Spring – Infographics

I am reprinting this from last Easter. It still seems appropriate.


 

I seem to have a case of Easter Spirit, or maybe it’s just Spring Fever. We actually had some sun and pleasant weather here in Chicago yesterday afternoon and it got to me. In any event, I am feeling really expansive this Easter Sunday morning and wish you the same.

The idea of achieving and maintaining good health in this blog really is just an exercise (no pun intended) in restoring ourselves on a daily basis, isn’t it? We wake up in the morning and our body says to us, metaphorically, what have you done for me lately? It’s nice that you ate well and got some exercise yesterday, but this is a new day. So, get to it.

So, in the spirit of Easter and rebirth and good health I wanted to share these two infographics on the benefits of exercise to our brains. Too often we overlook these benefits which are so important to us today and even more so tomorrow, in our senior years.

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If you want to read more on this subject, check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits)

brainbenefits-01Regular readers know that my family history includes both Alzheimer’s and dementia. So, exercise is most relevant to me. When people ask me why I ride my bike every day, I always tell them that I am paying for my old age one bike ride at a time.

Happy Easter!

Tony

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Harvard on Alzheimer’s in the Family

Regular readers know that my family has had three cases of dementia, including one of Alzheimer’s Disease. So, I am very sensitive on the subject of mental health. I was very gratified to read the item from Harvard on the subject.

Dementia affects the person diagnosed but also raises fears for siblings and children. Here are the facts.

brain

“Alzheimer’s disease represents a personal health crisis, but it’s also a family concern. What does it mean for your children or siblings if you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s? What does it mean for you if a close relative develops the condition?

“‘People think that if their dad or aunt or uncle had Alzheimer’s disease, they are doomed. But, no, that’s not true,” says Dr. Gad Marshall, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School. “Even though family history adds to the overall risk, age still usually trumps it quite a bit. It means your risk is higher, but it’s not that much higher, if you consider the absolute numbers.’

Family history by the numbers

“Studies of family history say that if you have a close relative who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease—the most common form of dementia in older adults—your risk increases by about 30%. This is a relative risk increase, meaning a 30% hike in your existing risk.

“If you are age 65, the risk of being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is 2% per year, although this also means a 98% chance per year of not developing Alzheimer’s. In absolute numbers, a 2% annual risk means that two out of 100 65-year-olds will develop dementia every year.

“Family history raises the 2% annual risk by about 30%, to 2.6% per year. That means going from 20 cases in a group of 1,000 to 26 in 1,000, or six additional cases in 1,000. “So the absolute increase is relatively small,” Dr. Marshall says.

“Age raises the chance of Alzheimer’s more than family history. People in their 70s have a 5% chance of being diagnosed—more than twice that of people in their 60s. Family history raises this by 30%, from 5% to 6.5%. Again, the absolute change is relatively small.”

What to do if someone in your family is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

    Contact the Alzheimer’s Association. Find out about resources available to help you and your family. State and county agencies may also be able to help.
•    Plan for the future. This includes legally designating someone to make health care and financial decisions for the affected person when he or she can’t.
•    Investigate long-term care options. Nursing care is expensive, and finding a good place can take time. Start early.
•    Take care of physical health. People with dementia who live a healthy lifestyle tend to progress more slowly to the later stages.
•    Steer away from genetic testing. Even if you have the APOE Alzheimer’s risk gene, it usually doesn’t mean you will develop dementia later in life.

Finally, to add to the Harvard recommendations, please check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits). I have a ton of positive reassuring information there. So far it seems to be working, I just turned 76 and my brain seems intact … if this blog is any evidence of that.

Tony

 

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9 Ways You Can Improve Your Mental Health Today

Simple stuff here. You can make your life better today if you start integrating some of these into your daily doings.

I have written about positive psychology a number of times here:

Harvard on How to Harness Positive Psychology for you

Practice Positive Psychology to Improve Your Health

How You Can Benefit From a Positive View of Life WSJ

POSITIVE PEOPLE SUFFER LESS PAIN

Tony

Our Better Health

Sure, diet and exercise help. But so does opening up to a friend.

Oct 27, 2015     Patricia Harteneck, Ph.D., MBA

Mental health is much more than a diagnosis. It’s your overall psychological well-being—the way you feel about yourself and others as well as your ability to manage your feelings and deal with everyday difficulties. And while taking care of your mental health can mean seeking professional support and treatment, it also means taking steps to improve your emotional health on your own. Making these changes will pay off in all aspects of your life. It can boost your mood, build resilience, and add to your overall enjoyment of life:

Tell yourself something positive.

Research shows that how you think about yourself can have a powerful effect on how you feel. When we perceive our self and our life negatively, we can end up viewing experiences in a way…

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Follow the MIND Diet to Stave Off Alzheimer’s

The newly created MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), developed by researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, was shown to reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s by 53 per cent in people who followed it rigorously and by 35 per cent in those who adhered to it only modestly.

 Regular readers know that I have serious interest in Alzheimer’s and dementia as there is a history of it in my family. This MIND diet appears to make possible a two-pronged approach to avoiding the mental mayhem of these dread afflictions.

The first prong of the defense remains exercise. To learn more check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise Benefits).

Tony

Cooking with Kathy Man

Leslie Beck, a registered dietitian wrote . . . . .

Most of us have heard about the heart-healthy Mediterranean and blood-pressure-lowering DASH diets that may also guard against dementia.

According to a study, a hybrid of these two eating plans – called the MIND diet – is associated with a significantly lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. That’s true even if you don’t follow the diet strictly.

Family members are prerecording messages as part of a unique pilot program at the Hebrew Home in New York. The videos are trying to help victims of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia break through the morning fog of forgetfulness.

The newly created MIND diet (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay), developed by researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, was shown to reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s by 53 per cent in people who followed it rigorously and by…

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10 Ways To Restore Energy When You’re Exhausted Or Burned Out

Our Better Health

BY MARISSA HÅKANSSON      APRIL 5, 2013

You have the power to cultivate energy within your body in any moment. Even when you’re exhausted, burned out and feel like you’ve got nothing left to give, your body can guide you to a space of greater vitality, inner strength and wellbeing.

Here are some strategies that I’ve used in my own life to do just that:

1. Rest when your body says rest.

It’s important to follow your body’s cues on when you need to rest rather than pushing yourself beyond what you can handle and then crashing. If in doubt, rest. When you listen to your body and give yourself the rest you need, you’ll rebuild your energy over the long-term.

2. Cultivate stillness within you.

There’s an incredible healing power in stillness. Prioritize creating quiet spaces in your day where you can simply be still. Really allow yourself…

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To Reap the Brain Benefits of Physical Activity, Just Get Moving!

“For a long time, it was believed that only aerobic exercise could improve executive functions. More recently, science has shown that strength-training also leads to positive results. Our new findings suggest that structured activities that aim to improve gross motor skills can also improve executive functions, which decline as we age. I would like seniors to remember that they have the power to improve their physical and cognitive health at any age and that they have many avenues to reach this goal,” concluded Dr. Nicolas Berryman, PhD.

I love this updating of what I have been writing in this blog for several years. For a full discussion, check out my Page – Important Facts About Your Brain (and Exercise).

Eat less; move more.

Tony

Cooking with Kathy Man

Everyone knows that exercise makes you feel more mentally alert at any age. But do you need to follow a specific training program to improve your cognitive function? Science has shown that the important thing is to just get moving. It’s that simple. In fact, this was the finding of a study conducted at the Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal (IUGM), an institution affiliated with Université de Montréal, by Dr. Nicolas Berryman, PhD, Exercise Physiologist, under the supervision of Dr. Louis Bherer, PhD, and Dr. Laurent Bosquet, PhD, that was published in the journal AGE (American Aging Association) in October.

The study compared the effects of different training methods on the cognitive functions of people aged 62 to 84 years. Two groups were assigned a high-intensity aerobic and strength-training program, whereas the third group performed tasks that targeted gross motor activities (coordination, balance, ball games, locomotive tasks, and flexibility)…

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R.I.P., Robin Williams

I have been a fan of Robin Williams since he exploded on the public consciousness with his antics as Mork, the alien from Ork in 1978. For more than three decades he never failed to bring me to outright laughter in his manic public appearances. His humor was so powerful that I often had tears running down my face and couldn’t catch my breath from laughing so violently. It is so tragically ironic that the battle with depression, of all things, cost him his life. I feel like I have lost a wonderful, funny, crazy friend.

Robin-Williams.-006

I posted on depression just over a year ago – How Bad is Depression?. You can read the entire item by clicking the link.

Here are some highlights:

One of the first things you need to know about depression is that it is a disorder of cognition not just mood, according to Robert D. Edger, M.D. speaking before Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Healthy Transitions Program®.

Depression is significantly more than feeling down or feeling sad.

Dr. Edger said that depression is the leading cause of disability in the world according to the World Health Organization. Women outnumber men by a factor of two-to-one. Only a quarter of the people who suffer from depression ever get treated. (Emphasis mine.)

The Mayo Clinic said, “More than just a bout of the blues, depression isn’t a weakness, nor is it something that you can simply ‘snap out’ of. Depression is a chronic illness that usually requires long-term treatment.

WebMD wrote today, “One of the most urgent signs, which calls for immediate action, is talking about death or suicide.

“Other warning signs, according to Schneider, Krakower, and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, may include:

“Talking about hopelessness, helplessness, and worthlessness
Feelings of being trapped, desperate, or anxious
Having persistent sadness or depression
Becoming more angry or irritable
Losing interest in life or loved ones
Having sleep problems
Contacting people and seeming to say goodbye”

Williams was only 63 years old, a young man by modern standards. Certainly, he could have counted on another decade or two if he hadn’t gotten derailed by the depression.

If any good can come from this tragic loss, perhaps it will be to awaken us to the dangers of depression and raise our level of consciousness on the subject. Maybe someone, or someone’s family, will address the problem instead of taking the easy way out and ignoring it. As funnyman Robin Williams has demonstrated, depression is no laughing matter.

Tony

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Study: Lifetime of Learning Might Thwart Dementia

The dementia protection afforded by routine intellectual activity alone was weaker than when intellectual activity was also paired up with stimulating jobs and education.

But in a twist, the authors found that those with the lowest educational and occupational scores actually gained the most protection against dementia by embarking on intellectual activities from middle-age onward.

Cooking with Kathy Man

Even taking up intellectual pursuits in mid-life appears to aid the brain.

A lifetime engaging in intellectually stimulating pursuits may significantly lower your risk for dementia in your golden years, new research suggests.

Even people with relatively low educational and professional achievements can gain protection against late-life dementia if they adopt a mentally stimulating lifestyle — reading and playing music and games, for example — by the time they enter middle-age, the new study contended.

“In terms of preventing cognitive [mental] impairment, education and occupation are important,” said study lead author Prashanthi Vemuri, an assistant professor of radiology at the Mayo Clinic and Foundation in Rochester, Minn. “But so is intellectually stimulating activity during mid- to late life,” she added.

“This is very encouraging news, because even if you don’t have a lot of education, or get exposure to a lot of intellectual stimulation during non-leisure activity, intellectual leisure activity…

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How About 30 Insane Facts About Sleep? – Infographic

Regular readers know that I feel strongly about the benefits of a good night’s sleep. You can read the Page listed at the top How Important is a Good Night’s Sleep to learn more.

I stumbled upon this infographic somewhere and thought you might enjoy it.

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Finally, here are a couple of facts on sleep from Dr. Mercola:

Recent studies show poor sleeping habits cause brain damage and even accelerate onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sleep is necessary for maintaining metabolic homeostasis in your brain. Without sufficient sleep, neuron degeneration sets in—and catching up on sleep during weekends will not prevent this damage.

Tony

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How About Some Granola Without any Grains?

Let me hear that, get me near that
Crunchy Granola Suite
Drop your shrink and stop your drinkin’
Crunchy granola’s neat ( Neil Diamond )


I agree with Neil about crunchy granola being neat. It has been a part of my diet for more years than I care to remember.

I know ‘Granola Without Grains’ sounds like something left over from April Fool’s Day. But it isn’t.  That’s why I was so surprised to discover Paleo Granola by CJK Foods of Chicago, IL.

“Granola,” according to Wikipedia “is a breakfast food and snack food, popular in the Americas, consisting of rolled oats, nuts, honey, and sometimes puffed rice, that is usually baked until crisp. During the baking process the mixture is stirred to maintain a loose, breakfast cereal-type consistency. Dried fruits, such as raisins and dates, are sometimes added.”

So, clearly, grains are an integral part of granola.

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I must confess almost total ignorance of the Paleo diet. I just checked the web and the first thing I learned is that they don’t eat grains. They do eat grass-produced meats, fish/seafood, fresh fruits and veggies, eggs, nuts and seeds and healthful oils, like coconut oil. Lots of good eating there. So, the fact that you don’t eat grains explains why the Paleo Granola has no grains in it.

Before going further, I need to tell you that I bought it from my local grocer who had a girl passing out samples. I tried one and was blown away by the taste. A party in my mouth! I went right back and picked up a package. I am now on my third one.

Okay, so what is in Paleo Granola?

The ingredients are Organic almonds, organic sunflower seeds, almond flour, organic cashews, organic walnuts, maple syrup, organic flax seeds, organic coconut oil, organic raisins, vanilla, organic coconut flakes, spices and salt.

Here is the nutrition breakdown:
Serving size 2 ounces, 57 grams
Calories 295
Total fat 23 grams
Saturated fat 8 grams
No Trans fat
Sodium 16 mg
Dietary fiber 4 grams
Sugar 11 grams
Protein 7 grams

A quick comparison with a regular granola, puts Paleo slightly higher on calories, a lot higher on total fat, due to the nuts and coconut, way down on sodium and higher on fiber and protein. Not a bad tradeoff, I think.

Although I am a big granola fan and have a bowl almost every day. I have found that I like the taste of this Paleo mixture so much that I use it as a snack and sometimes take chunks of it with me for energy breaks when I ride the bike.

While I usually refrain from writing up local products that are not available to readers of an international blog, I did this one because I thought you might enjoy being exposed to the concept of granola sans grains. Also, resourceful readers might even try to make it on their own with a little experimentation. You have all the ingredients.

If anyone does try to make their own, I hope you will share your experience with the blog.

For Neil Diamond fans, here is the best audio version I could find on You Tube:

Tony

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Music From iPods Helps Alzheimer’s and Dementia Patients

To clarify: Dementia is not a disease but a group of different diseases characterized by the gradual worsening of cognitive abilities. Dementia is seen across all ethnic groups and increasingly so with advancing age. Among 65–69-year-olds, about 2 percent are afflicted, with this figure doubling for every five years of age. Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 percent of cases.

Regular readers know that I lost an aunt to Alzheimer’s and my mother suffered from dementia late in her life, so all aspects of these aberrations are important to me.

I ran across a fascinating article in Agingcare.com about a project started by a social worker who was also a music fan. Dan Cohen “asked his local nursing home if he could come in and bring some digital music players with custom-made playlists to patients. Through trial and error, he learned what songs each patient liked and the ones they didn’t, then he remixed the play list accordingly. Every two weeks for 18 months, the patients Cohen worked with received updated songs. And he taught caregivers how to create playlists too.”

Cohen found immediate success. “Patients who used to be easily agitated soon seemed docile when a caregiver put headphones on them and encouraged them to listen. Others who were unresponsive suddenly lit up with awareness, and the ones who barely spoke suddenly wanted to converse.“

Now, after six years, Cohen’s small experiment has become a non-profit called Music and Memory. It has introduced iPods to over 50 nursing homes and assisted living centers in the U.S. and Canada. A documentary on it has become a viral sensation.

“The evidence isn’t just observational. Brain scans show that when people listen to music that’s autobiographical, music that evokes an important place, time or emotion for the listener, regions of the brain become stimulated, particularly the brain’s memory maker, the medial prefrontal cortex. That’s an important factor for patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia.”

Concetta Tomaino, D.A., executive director and co-founder of the Institute for Music and Neurologic Functions in New York says that it isn’t just Alzheimer’s and dementia patients who can benefit from this kind of music therapy.

She says, “ … when the auditory system is stimulated it can even override pain signals, providing relief in a way medicine sometimes cannot. Chemical changes occur, too, when patients hear music. Scientific evidence shows that listening to music you enjoy increases serotonin in the brain and decreases the stress hormone cortisol.”

Tony

I was not able to find a link for Cohen’s Music and Memory group. The film was done several years ago.

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Important Aspects of Aging Well – Harvard

I write a lot about diet, exercise and  weight loss, but it’s no accident that part of the title of this blog is ‘living longer.’ That’s really the reason for the diet, exercise and weight loss posts – so we can live longer and have full use of our physical as well as mental abilities.

So, I was most pleased to see Harvard HEALTHbeat reporting on the logistical aspects of aging well.

Happy-Old-People-1024x859

“You’re probably already doing a lot to ensure that you stay in good health and are able to enjoy your later years: eating right, exercising, getting checkups and screenings as recommended by your doctor. But it also makes sense to have some contingency plans for the bumps in the road that might occur.”

 

1.    Adapt your home. Stairs, baths, and kitchens can present hazards for older people. Even if you don’t need to make changes now, do an annual safety review so you can make necessary updates if your needs change.
2.    Prevent falls. Falls are a big deal for older people — they often result in fractures that can lead to disability, further health problems, or even death. Safety precautions are important, but so are exercises that can improve balance and strength.
3.    Consider your housing options. You might consider investigating naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs). These neighborhoods and housing complexes aren’t developed specifically to serve seniors — and, in fact, tend to host a mix of ages — but because they have plenty of coordinated care and support available, they are senior-friendly.
4.    Think ahead about how to get the help you may need. Meal preparation, transportation, home repair, housecleaning, and help with financial tasks such as paying bills might be hired out if you can afford it, or shared among friends and family. Elder services offered in your community might be another option.
5.    Plan for emergencies. Who would you call in an emergency? Is there someone who can check in on you regularly? What would you do if you fell and couldn’t reach the phone? Keep emergency numbers near each phone or on speed dial. Carry a cellphone (preferably with large buttons and a bright screen), or consider investing in some type of personal alarm system.
6.    Write advance care directives. Advance care directives, such as a living will, durable power of attorney for health care, or health care proxy, allow you to explain the type of medical care you want if you’re too sick, confused, or injured to voice your wishes. Every adult should have these documents.
To read further on Harvard’s suggestions, check this.

Tony

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